Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Basilica in Ravenna
In Via di Roma, stands the majestic bell tower of one of the most ancient churches in the city, a UNESCO World Heritage monument since 1996. We are talking about the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, which should not be confused with the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, located just outside the city.
This basilica was constructed between the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD under the patronage of the Gothic king Theodoric (493-526), adjacent to his palace, as an Arian palatine chapel.
An inscription recorded by Andrea Agnello in his “Liber Pontificalis,” a historical book on the Church in Ravenna from the 9th century, reads: “King Theoderic had this church erected from its foundations in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.” According to the historian, this inscription was originally located in the apse.
A Journey Through History: Originally dedicated to the Savior and consecrated for Arian worship, when the Byzantine Empire took control of the city in the mid-6th century, the church was converted to Orthodox Christianity.
The basilica was then dedicated to St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, known for his opposition to heresy.
Tradition has it that in the 9th century, the remains of Ravenna’s holy founder, St. Apollinaris, were transferred here from Classe. On this occasion, the church was definitively named after Apollinaris but with the suffix “Nuovo” (new).
Architecture and Mosaics: Architecturally, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is relatively simple when viewed from the outside. The brick façade features a tympanum framed by two pilasters and a mullioned window, topped by two small windows. Originally, it would have been enclosed by a four-sided portico, but it now has a simple and harmonious marble portico dating back to the 16th century.
To the right stands the cylindrical bell tower, a characteristic feature of Ravenna architecture, dating from the 9th to the 10th century.
Inside, the basilica houses one of the most renowned mosaic cycles in the world, representing Early Christian and Late Antique art.
This exceptional mosaic decoration adorns the entire central nave and is a masterpiece of immense value from stylistic, iconographic, and ideological perspectives. The basilica provides an incredible insight into the evolution of Byzantine mosaic art, showcasing styles from Theodoric’s era to that of Justinian.
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Visiting Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Every day: 9 am – 7 pm